Invited by the US Government, President Infantino took part in a two-day workshop to discuss economic investments in Palestine and the region in conjunction with a future peace plan. The FIFA President joined a panel discussion on the power of sports and entertainment.
He underlined that there is no sport that generates as much interest around the world as football, and that this came with a responsibility for FIFA. “Half of the world population stops to watch the FIFA World Cup. It is our duty to ensure that we use this power and the revenues to invest in development around the whole world.”
Through its Forward Programme, FIFA has been investing millions of dollars in football development projects across the entire region, bringing tangible change and new opportunities for its people, particularly among the youth. Infantino reminded the audience that FIFA was already investing in Palestine and praised the Palestine Football Association for its work. However, he admitted that more needs to be done. He pointed to the fact that in Palestine, there are less than 25 football pitches today, and he committed to invest in the building of more pitches, which will contribute to a healthier society.
Beyond material investments, Infantino also stressed that football has another fascinating power: to bring down long-established prejudices. “Football can change the way people look at certain things. Let’s use football as a tool to show that it’s possible. We will have the FIFA World Cup in Qatar in 2022, and it will change the way people look at this region and show the entire world that Arabs are welcoming people.”
Throughout the Middle Eastern region, football is also a powerful force, which brings people together, said Infantino. He used the example of Egyptian player Mohamed Salah, who has turned into a global phenomenon, creating passion across the entire Arab community. The FIFA President also spoke about a particular feature of FIFA: “We have 211 member associations. Palestine is one of them, Israel is one of them, the same as the US or Scotland. And they are all treated the same way.”
Throughout his remarks, the FIFA President underlined the positive message and example that football can offer to the people of the region.
“Never give up. What football can bring is hope, a dream and a smile.”